Nineteen Books

Our Noise : The Story of Merge Records by John Cook with Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance, Music, 2009 : 9.2

This one deserves a bit of a review. One thing to keep in mind regarding my ratings: As you might suspect, my grades are obviously skewed towards my interests. This is one of the highest ratings I've lobbed thus far, but I certainly wouldn't put this up there with a lot of the great fiction I've read over the past few years. The reason for the high mark is how closely this book hit home.

Merge Records has always been one of my favorite labels. They signed Richard Buckner, arguably one of the best songwriter of the past 15 years, yet someone who likely doesn't eclipse 2,500 in overall sales per record, and they signed him when his minimal popularity was already fading. They have also put out some of the best records of the past 15 years, most notably 69 Love Songs, Girls Can Tell and Funeral. But most importantly, Mac and Laura at Merge affirmed why I decided to pursue a career in music from the outset. They are undoubtedly in it for the right reasons. They release music that they love, often times knowing that the music won't sell. But they just can't help themselves. When something dives deep, they need to be the conduit to get it out there. This is what music was about prior to the post-Nirvana world, but has been lost in many corners of an industry scratching to keep their inflated expense accounts and overnight platinum records.

Over the course of 13 years in music, I searched for such a home time and again. I found such a feeling in one company and after a near three-year run at said company, it was heartbreaking when it came to a close. But now 20 years in, Merge Records has made it, and they've done it with class, passion, spirit, honesty and most importantly, taste. This book takes you inside that world. From the years on the road as Superchunk to the explosion that was the release of the Arcade Fire's first record, we're let inside this incredibly exciting yet challenging world of an independent label. Thank you to the folks at Merge for doing what they do.